UMKC Foundation honors Julia Irene Kauffman at annual dinner

The civic leader and philanthropist is recognized for her dedication to UMKC, Kansas City and the arts


Oct.9, 2014

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation presented its second annual Award of Distinction — the “Seeds of Learning” award — to civic leader and arts benefactor Julia Irene Kauffman at an Oct. 2 dinner in Kansas City.

In presenting the award, Betsey Solberg, chair of the foundation board, said Kauffman’s name “is synonymous with class and munificence.”

“She is musically astute, she is a catalyst for enacting positive change and she is smart,” Solberg said. “She understands that our greatest hope for a tomorrow built on the firmest of foundations starts with equipping the youth of today with the highest level of education we can provide them.”

Solberg thanked Kauffman for her generosity, which includes a $20 million challenge grant the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation gave UMKC toward its effort to build a downtown home for the Conservatory of Music and Dance. Kauffman serves as chair and chief executive of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, named for her late mother.

The $20 million challenge grant the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation announced last year is credited with getting the community’s long-held dream for a downtown campus off the ground.

Since the challenge grant was announced, other donors have come forward, including a group that pledged prime real estate for the project. The land is directly south of Kansas City’s renowned Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“Of course there are vast opportunities for our city’s cultural and economic growth,” Solberg said of the Downtown Campus for the Arts. “But the prospect of what this can mean to an entire era of students of music, dance and the performing arts is ground-breaking.”

Kauffman was presented with a “Seeds of Learning” award, a silver-on-bronze sculpture designed by A. Zahner Co., a Kansas City metal fabricating firm. The award is given annually to an individual who has demonstrated loyalty to the university.

Also at the dinner, UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton announced additional gifts for the Conservatory and its planned downtown home. With those, which total $5.6 million, the foundation has raised more than $30 million toward the $48 million in private funds it needs to approach the state of Missouri for matching funds.

Attending the dinner with more than 100 donors were members of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators and MU System President Tim Wolfe.

Murray Blackwelder, president of the UMKC Foundation, called the dinner a success that provided an important opportunity to share UMKC’s successes with the community and university system leadership.

“We are grateful for the enthusiasm and excitement this community continually demonstrates for UMKC and the UMKC Foundation,” Blackwelder said. “We are looking forward to hosting the curators again next year.”